Black ice

Motorcycle riding and car driving in winter_black_ice

Black ice is lethal. You don’t see it until its too late. If there is an answer to staying upright please please let us know.

The road surface just has to be below freezing, and if water gets on it you have ice. It might be dry weather, but water has come onto a road from a drain. It might be the road surface is colder in the shade, or under a bridge. You just cannot assume a road is clear. The technical weather stuff can be read by clicking here.

We are often asked by members about accidents and insurance claims, and if the highway authority can be blamed. Black ice or snow on the road is looked at very much like pot-holes. The highway authority has a duty to keep the road in reasonable condition, but not A1 at all times. There is no duty to grit a road every time there is a warning of frost, in the same way that a pot-hole need not be repaired instantly.

There are some very sad cases, like this one reported in The Telegraph. It is not an unusual story of someone seriously injured because there was ice on the road. Witnesses were being sought in the hope of showing the road was in a dangerous condition for an unreasonably long time, and that the dangerous condition had already been brought to the attention of the highway authority. That is the line to take if trying to show the highway authority is to blame.

There are no clear rules as to what is reasonable, but in recent years the Courts have been less willing to hold local authorities to be in breach of their duties. There are some cases which can succeed.  Do not hesitate to ask us to put you in touch with one of the specialist solicitors we use.

If you know of an area where water gets onto the road and freezes, please tell your local highway authority. They may not know about it, and may not understand life on two wheels. A recent report on the site went like this:

Reported in the Roads/highways category by Nick Jones at 12:01, Thursday 12 February 2009
Sent to West Sussex County Council 4 minutes later

I was travelling south on the B20208 into Lindfield this morning at about 0740. There is visible surface ice around the 30mph boundary. However, at the top of the hill by the junction to Old Place Farm there is black ice on which my scooter skidded. I was thrown over the handlebars. Fortunately I was only doing 20mph. No injuries. Can you do something about running water that frequently cross the carriageway on this hill please. Empty drains so they can receive water, clean ditches to stop water flowing into the carriageway. Put new drains in. All this also applies to the Hortsted Keynes to Lindfield road that has tonnes of running water on it despite the recent works near the waterworks.

Reporting may seem a pain, but it will save someone else from a spill.

Take care, and let us have your tips.